Danville, Virginia
—  City  —
Official seal of Danville, Virginia
Nickname(s): River City, City of Churches
Motto: A World Class Organization

Danville, Virginia is located in Virginia
Location within the state of Virginia
Coordinates: 36°35′14″N 79°24′16″W / 36.58722, -79.40444
Country United States
State Virginia
 • Mayor Sherman Saunders
 • Total 43.9 sq mi (113.8 km2)
 • Land 43.1 sq mi (111.5 km2)
 • Water 0.9 sq mi (2.3 km2)
Elevation 531 ft (162 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 43,055
 • Density 998.9/sq mi (386.1/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 434
FIPS code 51-21344[1]
GNIS feature ID 1492837[2]

Danville is an independent city in Virginia, United States, bounded by Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina. It was the last capital of the Confederate States of America. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Danville with Pittsylvania county for statistical purposes under the Danville, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 43,055 according to the 2010 U.S. Census.[3] It hosts the Danville Braves baseball club of the Appalachian League. Dan River Industries, formerly one of the world's largest textile mills, closed its local mill in 2006, leaving a large number of Danvillians without jobs.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.9 square miles (114 km2), of which 43.1 square miles (112 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 km2) is water.


As of 2007, Danville had a population of 44,947 which was a -6.5% drop from the previous year. Races in Danville were White Non-Hispanic 53.3%, African American 44.1%, Hispanic 1.3%, two or more races 0.8%.[4]

25.4% of the population Never Married, 46.6% are married, 5.4% is separated. 11.6% are widowed, 11.0% are divorced. There were 59 registered sex offenders living in Danville in early 2007.[4][5]


Crime Danville, Virginia (2007) National Average
Murder 8.6 6.9
Rape 10.7 32.2
Robbery 160.9 195.4
Assault 233.9 340.1
Burglary 914.1 814.5
Automobile Theft 236.0 526.5

Overall crime in Danville is slightly above the national average. The Total Crime Index for Danville is 338.3 per 100,000 residents, the National Average is 320.9 per 100,000 residents.[4]



Amtrak's Crescent train connects Danville with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 677 Craghead Street.


View of the Dan River in downtown Danville

U.S. Route 58 Business (Riverside Dr/River St) parallels the north bank of the Dan River traveling east/west through Danville's main commercial district while the US 58 Bypass route bypasses the city's center to the south via the Danville Expressway. U.S. Route 29 splits into a business route and a bypass at the North Carolina/Virginia border. The business route enters the heart of Danville via West Main Street and Memorial Drive and exits via Central Boulevard and Piney Forest Road; US 29 Business travels relatively north/south. The bypass (future Interstate 785) takes the eastern segment of the Danville Expressway and rejoins the business route north of the city near Chatham, Virginia.

North Carolina Highway 86 becomes State Route 86 once it crosses the state line into Danville as South Main Street. It continues north to its terminus at US 29 Business/Central Boulevard.

State Route 293 was created in 1998 to mark the route of old US 29 Business, which was rerouted to the west. SR 293 enters Danville's downtown historic district as West Main Street, then Main Street, and then crosses the Dan River to meet US 29 Business as North Main Street.

State Route 51 parallels US 58 Business as Westover Drive from its western terminus at US 58 Business at the Danville's corporate limits to its eastern terminus at US 58 Business near the Dan River.


Wreck of the Old 97, Danville, Virginia, 1903

In 1728, William Byrd headed an expedition sent to determine the true boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. One night late that summer, the party camped upstream from what is now Danville, Byrd was so taken with the beauty of the land, that he prophesied a future settlement in the vicinity, where people would live “with much comfort and gaiety of Heart.” The river along which he camped was named the “Dan”, for Byrd, supposing himself to be in the land of plenty, felt he had wandered “from Dan to Beersheba”.

The first white settlement (numerous Native American tribes had lived in the area) occurred downstream from Byrd’s campsite in 1792, at a spot along the river shallow enough to allow fording. It was named “Wynne’s Falls,” after the first settler. The village has a “social” reason for its origin, since it was here that pioneering Revolutionary War veterans met once a year to fish and talk over old times.

The establishment by the General Assembly of a tobacco warehouse at Wynne’s Falls in 1793 was the beginning of “The World’s Best Tobacco Market.” Virginia’s largest market for bright leaf tobacco. The village was renamed Danville by act of the Virginia Legislature on November 23, 1793. A charter for the town was drawn up February 17, 1830, but by the time of its issue, the population had exceeded the pre-arranged boundaries. This necessitated a new charter, which was issued in 1833. In that year, James Lanier was elected the first mayor, assisted by a council of “twelve fit and able men.”

On July 22, 1882, six of Danville’s enterprising citizens founded the Riverside Cotton Mills, which was in its day known the country over as Dan River Inc., the largest single-unit textile mill in the world. The mill is now closed, and many of its buildings have been torn down and the bricks sold. One very important building, "The White Mill," is now being renovated as an apartment complex.

One of the most famous wrecks in American rail history occurred in Danville. On September 27, 1903, “Old 97,” the Southern Railway’s crack express mail train, was running behind schedule. Its engineer “gave her full throttle,” but the speed of the train caused it to jump the tracks on a high trestle overlooking the valley of the Dan. The engine and five cars plunged into the ravine below, killing nine and injuring seven, but immortalizing the locomotive and its engineer, Joseph A. ("Steve") Broadey, in a now well-known song. A marker is located on U.S. 58 between Locust Lane and North Main Street at the train crash site. A mural of the Wreck of the Old 97 is painted on a downtown Danville building in memory of the historic wreck.

Shuttered textile mill, Dan River Mills, on the Dan River, Danville

On March 2, 1911, Danville Police Chief R. E. Morris, who had been elected to three two-year terms and was running for a fourth term, was arrested as an escaped convicted murderer. He admitted that he was really Edgar Stribling of Harris County, Georgia, and had been on the run for thirteen years.[6]

Danville was home to both Nancy Langhorne, Viscountess Astor, the first woman to serve in the British House of Commons, and Irene Langhorne Gibson, the inspiration for "the Gibson girl". It is also the home of the very first and only black driver to win a race in what is now NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Wendell Scott, and was the birthplace of "Battling Jim" Johnson (b. ca. 1883), a boxer who fought heavyweight champion Jack Johnson to a draw in Paris, France in 1913.

Broadside advertisement for tobacco warehouse, Danville, 1874

Preservation Virginia President William B. Kerkam, III, and its Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kostelny announced at a press conference held in Danville (2007) at Main Street Methodist Church, a building not designated to the list but nonetheless at risk, that the entire city of Danville has been named one of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Virginia.

American Civil War[]

Broadside by Jefferson Davis announcing move of Confederate capitol to Danville, 4 April 1865

The outbreak of the American Civil War found Danville a thriving community of some 5,000 people. During those four years of war, the town was transformed into a strategic center of activity. It was a quartermaster’s depot, rail center, hospital station for Confederate wounded and a prison camp. Here six tobacco warehouses were converted into prisons, housing at one time more than 5,000 captured Federal soldiers. The city and surrounding areas also contributed two companies of infantry, one troop of cavalry, and a battery of artillery to the Confederate army.

Starvation and dysentery, plus a smallpox epidemic in 1864, caused the death of 1,314 of these prisoners. Their remains now lie interred in the Danville National Cemetery.

The Richmond and Danville Rail Road was the main supply route into Petersburg where Lee's Army of Northern Virginia were holding their defensive line to protect Richmond. The Danville supply train ran until General Stoneman's Union cavalry troops tore up the tracks. This event was immortalised in the song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".

Danville home of tobacco entrepreneur Major William T. Sutherlin, best known as the Last Capitol of the Confederacy

Danville became the last capital of the Confederate States of America within the space of a few days. Jefferson Davis and the temporary Capital moved to the palatial home of William T. Sutherlin on April 3, 1865. It was in the Sutherlin home that Davis' issued his final Presidential Proclamation. The final Confederate Cabinet meeting was held at the Benedict House (later destroyed) in Danville. Davis and members of his cabinet remained there until April 10, 1865, when news of Lee’s surrender forced them to flee southward. On the day of their departure, Governor William Smith arrived from Lynchburg, to establish his headquarters.

Civil Rights Movement in Danville[]

A series of violent episodes of the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia occurred in Danville during the summer of 1963. On May 31, representatives of the black community organized as the Danville Christian Progressive Association (DCPA) demanded an end to segregation and job discrimination in Danville. A boycott of white merchants was declared, and a march to City Hall followed. Most of the marchers were high school students. They were met by police and city workers armed with clubs. The protesters were sprayed with fire hoses and hit with clubs. Around forty protesters needed medical attention. Marches and other protests continued for several weeks.[7] Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Danville and spoke at High Street Baptist Church about the brutality of the police force. He called it the worst police brutality he had seen in the South.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent organizers to Danville to support the DCPA. They helped lead protest, including demonstrations at the Howard Johnson Hotel and restaurant on Route 29. The hotel was known for discriminating against blacks. A special grand jury indicted 13 DCPA, SCLC, and SNCC activists for violating the "John Brown" law. This law, passed in 1830 after a slave uprising, made it a serious felony to "..incite the colored population to acts of violence or war against the white population." It became known as the "John Brown" law in 1860 because it was used to convict and hang abolitionist John Brown after his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.[7]

By the end of August, over 600 protesters had been arrested in Danville on charges of inciting to violence, contempt, trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault, parading without a permit, and resisting arrest. Because of the large number of arrest on these charges, often the jails would be over crowded, protesters were housed in detention facilities in jurisdiction located near Danville, VA. The demonstrations failed to achieve desegregation in Danville which remained segregated until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[7]

Millionaire's Row[]

Tobacco Warehouse Historic District

Millionaire's Row is the most impressive area in Danville. It has many fine homes built in the 19th century and early 20th century by descendants of American planters. They are beautiful mansions adorned by trees lining the streets and peppered about the yards of these beautiful homes. The entire area around "Penn's Bottom", the nickname for the part of Main St that experienced heavy growth as the first suburb of Danville during the Tobacco boom, has been designated as a historic district. The Old West End Historic District, Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Downtown Danville Historic District and North Main Historic District are going through a period of revitalization. The many fine examples of Victorian Architecture are showcased every Holiday season with the Christmas Tour. Also located in this district is the "Sutherlin Mansion" currently known as the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History. This Italinate Mansion was the home of Major William T. Sutherlin a Confederate Quartermaster and was the location of the last "White House" of the Confederacy after the fall of Richmond. The museum, and its grounds currently occupy a complete block in this district. The remainder of the plantation was subdivided to create the surrounding neighborhood.

Dan's Hill estate, Danville vicinity

City government[]

The City of Danville has a council-manager government in which a City Manager is hired by council to supervise the city government and ensure that the laws, ordinances, and policies made by the City Council are carried out in an effective manner.[8] The City Council consists of nine members elected by the citizens of Danville. The City Council selects the Mayor and Vice Mayor from among its members to serve two year terms.[8] The City Council has the power "to adopt and enforce legislative and budgetary ordinances, policies, and rules and regulations necessary to conduct the public's business and to provide for the protection of the general health, safety and welfare of the public."[8] The members if the Danville City Council are:

Pemberton & Penn Tobacco Co. building, Tobacco Warehouse Historic District

Terms expiring on 30 June 2014
  • Alonzo Jones
  • John Gilstrap
  • Adam J. Tomer
  • Gary P. Miller
Terms expiring 30 June 2012
  • Lawrence G. "Larry" Campbell, Jr.
  • T. David Luther (Vice Mayor)
  • Albert K. "Buddy" Rawley, Jr.
  • Sherman M. Saunders (Mayor)
  • Fred O. Shanks, III

Notable Danville natives[]

  • Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor (born Nancy Langhorne), member, House of Commons
  • William Lewis Cabell, Confederate General and mayor of Dallas, Texas
  • Clarence 13X, The Nation of Gods and Earths founder
  • Buddy Curry, former Atlanta Falcons player
  • Jon Dalton, Reality Television Personality (also known as Johnny Fairplay)
  • Ferrell Edmunds, NFL player
  • Robert H. Edmunds, Jr., North Carolina Supreme Court Justice
  • Emmet Gowin, photographer
  • J. Hartwell Harrison, M.D., instrumental in the world's first kidney transplant
  • John B. Henderson, United States Senator from Missouri
  • Thomas Hill, world-renowned trainer of champion poodles
  • George M. La Monte, paper manufacturer, politician, philanthropist
  • Kenny Lewis, former New York Jets player[9]
  • Teresa Lewis, a murderer to be the first female executed by lethal injection in the state of Virginia
  • Percy Miller, Jr., first black baseball player in the Carolina League
  • Herman Moore, former NFL Player, former University of Virginia football player
  • Johnny Newman, NBA player
  • Mojo Nixon, psychobilly musician and Sirius Satellite Radio host
  • Eric Owens, former Major League Baseball player
  • Nate Poole, NFL player
  • Tony Rice, bluegrass musician
  • Wendell Scott, first African-American NASCAR driver
  • Peyton Sellers, NASCAR driver
  • Charles Stanley, former president of Southern Baptist Convention, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta, and founder and president of In Touch Ministries
  • Skipp Sudduth, actor (Ronin (film) and Third Watch)
  • Charles Tyner, actor (Sweet Bird of Youth (play) and Cool Hand Luke)[10]
  • Camilla Ella Williams, opera singer, first African American contracted to sing with New York City Opera
  • Andra Willis, singer from The Lawrence Welk Show
  • Tony Womack, Major League Baseball player

Newspapers distributed in Danville[]

Colleges and universities[]

  • Averett University
  • Danville Community College
  • National College of Business & Technology

Notable businesses[]

  • Danville Regional Medical Center
  • Goodyear
  • Nestlé
  • IKEA opened its first factory in the U.S. in this city, in 2008. It employs more than 300 people.[11]

See also[]

National Register of Historic Places listings in Danville, Virginia


External links[]

Coordinates: 36°35′14″N 79°24′16″W / 36.587238, -79.404404

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